Last month Kinesis customer iGR released findings from a study they conducted about how consumers typically utilize their smartphones. Just as these devices themselves are evolving, so are the preferred activities that are performed on them. iGR issued a survey to 1000+ U.S. smartphone users (balanced by age and income) and asked them to report on what they actually do with their “phones.”
Since there are many potential uses – phone calls, texting, apps, email, web browsing, playing music/videos, playing games, photo/video capture and more – iGR’s findings are highly relevant not only to the smartphone industry, but to our own market research industry as well. As researchers attempt to develop solid recruitment and engagement models for survey respondents, it is crucial to know which smartphone activities most often capture the attention of their users, both overall and by demographic segmentation. While some of the data collected by iGR aligns with what we might assume is expected usage, other data show that smartphones, more than likely in combination with social media, are defining communications altogether.
In the not-so-surprising results category, 20.5% of respondents reported that they use their smartphones for “all of the above,” meaning that one in five engage in all of the major activities that their devices have to offer. Also to be expected, younger users are more likely to play games, listen to music and download/watch/send videos than older users. iGR also found that certain smartphone activities are age-neutral; users download apps and take/send photos at the nearly the same percentages regardless of age.
Yet other findings from this study were somewhat startling. iGR’s first choice on the survey’s activity list was “voice calls.” Given that the name of this device type is smartphone, and the fact that they have rapidly replaced earlier generation mobile phones, it would be assumed that nearly every respondent would have either selected this option or the “all of the above” option – because doesn’t every smartphone owner use their device to make and receive phone calls? According to iGR’s findings, the answer here is no. Only 64% of respondents checked the “voice calls” option, so in totality with the “all of the above” responses, that leaves 15% of participants who report not using their smartphone for phone calls.
As probably anticipated, the percent of these “non-callers” increases to about 20% in younger groups, and drops to 10% for those age 55+, but overall these findings mean that about 15% of U.S. smartphone users say they are not making phone calls on their devices – which equates to about 40 million people. In reality, it is likely that some in this group occasionally make phone calls, but they do not appear to value the ability. We confirmed with iGR that those in this group are also no more likely than the others to additionally own a tablet, so it does not appear that multi-smart-device usage is influencing these numbers. With the rise of social media, communications have often become one-to-many, and the traditional voice call no longer provides the power and efficiency in comparison to newer communications modes.
For both online and mobile research, most survey projects are initiated via email and/or text invitation rather than by phone call, so the impact of these findings is not as significant, however they are incredibly impactful for CATI and IVR research practices. Smartphone penetration is increasing across all demographic groups, yet it appears that the decline of mobile phone call use has already begun. Furthermore, now that the majority of U.S. households are mobile only without active landlines, CATI and IVR research methodologies will continue to decline in both reach and effectiveness. It seems as though the next era of market research must rely on non-phone methodologies – perhaps the message from consumers today is “Don’t call us, and we won’t call you.”